Rangers vs St. Johnstone. Scottish Premiership.
Match report as Rangers beat St Johnstone; James Tavernier scored from the penalty spot after James Brown's handball; Nicky Clark was sent off for a challenge on Ryan Jack; Glen Kamara doubled the lead in the second half; Rangers remain nine points behind Celtic
Monday 30 January 2023 10:04, UK
Rangers remain unbeaten under Michael Beale after a controversy-filled victory over 10-man St Johnstone at Ibrox.
James Tavernier's penalty put Rangers in front after James Brown was punished for handball before St Johnstone were reduced to 10 men when Nicky Clark was sent off for a challenge on Ryan Jack.
Jack then immediately avoided a red card for a late tackle despite a VAR check, before Glen Kamara sealed the victory for Rangers after the break.
It is now nine wins for Beale since he took charge and they remain nine points behind Celtic after their victory at Dundee United.
St Johnstone have now suffered seven straight defeats and remain eighth in the Scottish Premiership.
Todd Cantwell had not played since November 12 but the new Rangers signing was thrust into the starting line-up in place of Fashion Sakala, while Kamara replaced John Lundstram.
The 24-year-old midfielder signed from Norwich had plenty of touches in the early stages.
The home side's first chance came in the sixth minute when Malik Tillman sent Alfredo Morelos through on goal, but an unconvincing strike was blocked by St Johnstone goalkeeper Remi Matthews, who thwarted the Colombian striker six minutes later after the Saints defence was opened up again.
The Rangers penalty, awarded after the ball struck defender Brown on the arm after coming off Tillman's back, was confidently converted by Tavernier, who drove the ball high past Matthews.
The McDiarmid Park 'keeper continued his personal duel with Morelos and, in the 22nd minute, blocked yet another shot from the striker after he had been sent clear on goal by Kamara.
Clark volleyed over the bar at the other end from a Connor McLennan cross minutes later to remind Rangers there was still plenty to do.
Matthews made a decent save from Ryan Kent's drive before Saints were reduced to 10 men after former Gers striker Clark's high tackle on Jack in the middle of the pitch left the Ibrox playmaker requiring treatment.
Saints boss Callum Davidson was shown a yellow card by Willie Collum for venting his frustrations before the referee was asked to check his monitor after showing Jack a yellow card for his hefty challenge on Adam Montgomery. To some surprise he stuck by his decision, which did not amuse Davidson.
Matthews made a fine save from Tavernier's free-kick just before the interval, but there was time for Drey Wright to race on to a Danny Phillips pass, round Gers 'keeper Allan McGregor and then fall over as he tried to squeeze the ball in from a tight angle.
To little surprise, Lundstram took over from Jack for the start of the second half, where Matthews again proved his worth, swatting away a Kent drive from close range after Tillman had set him up.
Rangers kept up the pressure and unmarked Kamara accepted a clever flick from Morelos and beat Matthews from 14 yards to effectively seal the win.
Sakala replaced Cantwell in the 62nd minute before McGregor made a good save from an Andy Considine header as the Perth men continued to battle.
There were huge cheers when Ianis Hagi, out for just over a year with a knee injury, came on along with Antonio Colak and Scott Wright, with Morelos, Kent and Tillman making way, but there was no change in the scoreline despite some relentless Rangers attacking.
Rangers boss Michael Beale:
"There's no malice in Nicky [Clark's] tackle," he said. "At the last minute he actually tried to pull back.
"But he does catch him quite high on his shin - Ryan has the gash to show it. He'll possibly be a doubt for Wednesday (against Hearts). The VAR official has spoken to Willie and they have decided to send him off.
"Ryan's tackle on Montgomery is completely different. It's low and he's caught him on the ankle.
"It's a yellow card anywhere on the park. We shouldn't put the two of them together and make a lot of drama about it. There's no way that Ryan Jack's tackle is a red card, no way."
St Johnstone boss Callum Davidson:
"I thought the Nicky Clark one was a bit harsh," he said.
"He was getting fouled originally, he has lost his balance a little bit as he has gone to ground. Ryan Jack has come in to him at force, not the other way round. So I just can't get it, I don't understand it.
"A really big decision, I don't think it was a red card and then the tackle on Adam was really late, at speed with force.
"I seen replays of it, he has gone straight leg with studs at Adam's ankle and it is a yellow card. There you go, that sums up the game.
"Normally when they go over to it (the monitor) it is a red card. The less I say about that the better."
As for the penalty decision, the former St Johnstone defender said: "James' hand is up, and it is deflected on to it from a yard away - I'm not sure what you are meant to do.
"There is no intent to handle it, no intent to stop the ball going towards goal. We have to be a little bit sensible as big decisions in games are affecting the outcome. We have to have a look at the handball rule at the end of the season."
Rangers are away to Hearts in their next Scottish Premiership match on February 1, while St Johnstone face Motherwell on the same night.
Both games kick-off at 7.45pm.